Council faces legal threat over extension to York footstreets

Disability campaigners warned the council it could face legal action over the move to pedestrianise more city centre streets.

One disabled resident said the closure of some streets to traffic means she has lost her independence.

But the council has asked disabled residents and groups to have their say on the move – and made some changes to the scheme.

The streets were pedestrianised under emergency coronavirus powers to make space for social distancing and pavement cafes.

The streets to remain pedestrianised until September 2021 are

  • Fossgate
  • Blake Street
  • Church Street
  • Colliergate
  • Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square)
  • Castlegate
  • King’s Square
  • Lendal
  • and St Helen’s Square.

But Goodramgate will reopen to cars and for blue badge parking between Monk Bar to Deangate and College Green.

‘Clear discrimination’

Edward Mitten and Alison Hume at a protest on Goodramgate, York, in September. Photograph: Francesca Hume

A spokesperson for York Disability Rights Forum told senior councillors at a meeting: “Your own findings evidence clear discrimination against disabled people. In light of this, to continue with the measures would be in clear violation of the Equality Act 2010.

“Without an array of suitable mitigations in place, you’re opening yourself up for legal action.”

Jane Burton told the meeting the lost blue badge spaces had not been sufficiently replaced elsewhere.

She added: “It has brought a loss of dignity and independence.”

But Cllr Andy D’Agorne said changes have been made to improve access for disabled people. He said 61 per cent of people surveyed were in favour of extending the pedestrian area and 67 per cent of those said they have a disability.

He added: “The original decision to extend our foot streets was taken in response to pandemic.

“We are pleased to note the comments that have been made in the very extensive consultations – 1,900 responses. They did indicate that although the feedback on the whole has been positive, the disadvantages for some are in some way compensated by benefits for other people with disabilities.”

Impressed by consultation

A visually impaired resident speaking after the meeting said: “As a disabled person myself I was impressed with the level of consultation the council went to in engaging with the various disability groups and self-advocates in the city prior to this meeting.

“They went to great lengths to get the views and perspectives of disabled communities, they didn’t marginalise that process by running a simple, hard to find, survey, but ran a series of workshops, and proactively contacted disability groups to engage with them directly.

“For me and many blind and partially sighted people reduced traffic and larger pedestrian areas, that the footstreets scheme provides are welcomed.

“There have been times when I have been forced to dangerously walk into a busy road to get around cars parked on pavements. Knowing if I have to walk into the road now to get around some tables and chairs is fine, especially as they all have tap rails so I won’t just walk into someone enjoying a cappuccino.

“This is a crazy time we are living through, but in this instance I want to thank the council for their willingness to engage with the public to find a workable, if not perfect, solution. I only have my own disability and lived experience to draw from and in this instance will feel safer knowing there is a larger pedestrianised area free of traffic in the city centre.”